Sixty-six years ago, at the end of July and early August, US policymakers and President Truman made fateful decisions that meant the use of two atomic bombs against Japanese cities was almost inevitable—virtually unstoppable. Then film footage and other evidence of the true effects of the bomb were suppressed for decades. We’ve been living with the nuclear after-effects ever since, from Hiroshima to Fukushima.
Starting July 25, and related to publication of my new book and e-book Atomic Cover-up, on that film’s suppression, I began offering a daily record of what transpired leading up the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. (For more, including video, see my personal blog and major new article at Japan Focus.)
On this day in 1945:
—Truman wrote a letter to his wife Bess last night talking about the atomic bomb (but without revealing it): “He [Stalin] doesn’t know it but I have an ace in the hole and another one showing—so unless he has threes or two pair (and I know he has not) we are sitting all right.” And today he gives a letter to Stalin, which confounds him. Earlier, Stalin had promised to declare war on Japan around August 7. Now Truman writes that more consultation is needed. Truman had pushed for the entry, writing in his diary "fini Japs" when that occurred, even without use of The Bomb. Now that he has the bomb in his "pocket" he apparently hopes to stall the Soviets.
–Truman has also approved statement on the use of the bomb, brought to him last night in Germany by a courier, drafted by Secretary of War Stimson and others, and ordered it released after first drop. A line near the start has been added explictly depicting the vast city of Hiroshima as a “military base.” The president, and the drafters of the statement, knew was false. An earlier draft described the city of Nagasaki as a “naval base” and nothing more. There would be no reference to radiation effects whatsoever—it was just a vastly bigger bomb. (See my July 30 entry for more text.)
—The Potsdam conference ended early this morning, with Truman expected to head back to the US by sea tomorrow.
—The “Little Boy” atomic bomb is now ready for use on the island of Tinian. Under the direction of the lead pilot, Paul Tibbetts, practice runs have been completed, near Iwo Jima, and fake payloads dropped, with success. Truman’s order had given the okay for the first mission later this day and it might have happened if a typhoon, of a different sort, was not approaching Japan.
—Stimson writes in his diary about decision today to release, with Truman’s coming statement on the use of the bomb, a 200-page report on the building of the bomb, revised to not give too much away. Here he explains why they will release it at all: “The aim of the paper is to backfire reckless statements by independent scientists after the demonstration of the bomb. If we could be sure that these could be controlled and avoided, all of us would much prefer not to issue such a paper. But under the circumstances of the entire independence of action of scientists and the certainty that there would be a tremendous amount of excitement and reckless statement, Groves, who is a very conservative man, had reached the conclusion that the lesser evil would be for us to make a statement carefully prepared so as not to give away anything vital and thus try to take the stage away from the others.”
–Greg Mitchell’s new book (also out as an e-book) is Atomic Cover-Up: Two US Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and The Greatest Movie Never Made. He also co-authored, with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America.